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On the heels of Gov. McCrory’s newest teacher compensation proposal, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest proposed yesterday his own smaller-scale solution to improving the abysmal teacher pay situation in North Carolina.

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest proposes license plates to boost teacher pay

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest proposes license plate revenue as one way to boost teacher pay

License plates.

Okay, to be fair, that’s not his entire plan – but it is the face of it.

Forest introduced draft legislation to members of the Ed Oversight committee that would create a Teacher Endowment Fund earmarked for compensating public school teachers who improve student outcomes in their classrooms.

One way Forest proposes to fund the endowment is with the sale of license plates that say “I Support Teachers.” In his bill, the Lieutenant Governor modified existing law that establishes a license plate option with the words “I Support Public Schools,” which was never created due to a lack of interest. Forest crossed out “Public Schools” and replaced it with “Teachers.”

WRAL reported that the state’s most popular specialized license plates, which are the ones that contribute to the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, only generate annual revenue amounts of $500,000.

But Forest told reporters yesterday that he hopes the endowment will generate billions of dollars in revenue over the long term.

Perhaps that’s possible with some of the other options in his bill that would funnel money into the endowment. Corporations and individuals will be allowed to make tax-deductible donations to the fund, and Forest told committee members that he personally planned to embark on fundraising by approaching corporations and asking them to donate.

No matter how much is raised, Sen. Josh Stein worried that the endowment funds could ultimately just get thrown in with the big General Appropriations pot, much like what happened to the lottery funding that was originally intended to fund certain areas of education.

The bill includes the option for the General Assembly to appropriate money directly to the endowment, but Forest told reporters yesterday there would be no initial “ask” for the fund during this upcoming short session.

Pat McCrory 4Dan ForestWith yesterday’s mostly predictable election out of the way, state policy debates will actually take center stage in North Carolina for a few weeks. Not surprisingly though, the process will begin today with a rather strange pair of competing press conferences in which the ideological battles that played out in the Republican Party primary between the far right and the ultra-far-right will be renewed. As WRAL.com reported last night:

“Gov. Pat McCrory said Tuesday that he plans to roll out a ‘major education announcement’ in Greensboro on Wednesday that will address long-term issues and focus on rewarding teachers for good work….

The governor plans to join educators, state and local officials and business leaders at North Carolina A&T State University for the 10 a.m. announcement.

Four hours later, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest will join Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, chief education budget writer in the Senate, in Raleigh to ‘unveil a new fund to supplement teacher pay in North Carolina public schools.’

Talk about the right hand not keeping up with the left (or, in this case, the right hand not keeping up with the extreme right). Of course, it’s been common knowledge in Raleigh for a long time that Forest is the darling of the Tea Party/religious right crowd and that he has been building a network of supporters to help him run for Governor in 2020 (or maybe even 2016 if McCrory continues to falter). Could it be that the contest between these two will begin today with, ironically enough, competing proposals over teacher pay — a subject over which the GOP has been pummeled for its budget-slashing policies? Stay tuned — it could be that an interesting next chapter in state policy wars is about to begin.

Dan Forest

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest

Regular NC Policy Watch readers will no doubt recall some of our previous stories on the rather curious  Raleigh-based group co-founded by Lt. Gov Dan Forest shortly before his run for state office — a group called the Faith Driven Consumer. As we reported back in 2012 shortly after the election, Forest co-founded the organization (a group that, among other things, recommends boycotting Sears because its catalogs feature lingerie models) with a guy named Christopher Stone:

Basically, the group purports to provide seals of approval for companies that it decides comport with “Christian” and “Biblical” values (note that for the group’s purposes “Christian” and “Biblical” mean conservative, fundamentalist Christianity). It then promotes the companies to the supposed tens of millions of Americans whom it claims will be swayed by such information. Read More

DinosaurNorth Carolina’s Lt. Governor Dan Forest is no longer on the board of the group he helped found a few years back known as Faith Driven Consumer, but the group remains enmeshed in controversial issues with important political implications.

The group’s most recent crusade is to make sure that that the bosses at Paramount Studios, which is producing a multimillion dollar movie based on the Biblical figure Noah and the mythological story in which he saves all the creatures of the world from a flood, doesn’t allow the film to include any deviation from the what the group considers to be the literal truth. As Fox News reports, the group, which claims to speak for 46 million Christian consumers, released survey results showing that that “98 percent of faith-driven consumers are ‘unsatisfied with (the) Bible-themed movie which strays from Biblical message.’ The report suggested that ‘Noah’ could thus face ‘commercial challenges.’”

Such a scenario is in keeping with the past efforts of the Faith Driven Consumer to inject a conservative Christian worldview into modern American commerce. As reported here previously, the group has gone so far in past years as to dispense low marks to retailers (like the department store chain Sears) that feature lingerie models in their catalogs.

In the “Noah” example, the Faith Driven Consumer group has made it plain to Paramount that it doesn’t care for the notion that the film might attempt to superimpose modern, non-literal interpretations on the flood story. This is from an appeal on the group’s website: Read More

Dan ForestApparently sensing the political vulnerability of Gov. McCrory, North Carolina’s ambitious Lt. Governor, Dan Forest engaged in a little gratuitous headline grabbing last week by making the rather stunning/bizarre statement that he wanted North Carolina’s public school teachers to be the highest paid in the country and that there is “plenty of money in government” to effect such a change without raising taxes.

Yesterday, in response, veteran Raleigh journalist Scott Mooneyham of The Insider provided Forest with a crash course in Public Finance 101:

“Let’s dig down into the nitty-gritty of what it would take to make North Carolina public school teachers the highest-paid in the country. Read More